Barbara Mark, PhD
Team Gennev is excited to introduce a new guest blogger who will be joining our roster of regulars: Dr. Barbara Mark. An executive coach for professional women since the early 1980s with degrees in clinical psychology, Dr. Barbara chose to focus on adult development, human potential and leadership. She works with professional women in midlife who are balancing internal changes, challenges, and shifts in focus with the external demands of their professional environments.
“Midlife” is a normal, natural, and yes, complicated time in adult development, the mere mention of which can strike fear and loathing in the hearts of many woman over 35!
Why the fear? Because we live in a youth-obsessed culture, and nothing says “old” like “midlife.” To many it still means “over-the-hill,” “pack-it-in,” get that rocking chair out on the porch and watch life go by.
As women, we constantly confront the socially constructed reality that being an older woman makes us irrelevant and therefore invisible. As women we internalize that constructed reality and live it by doing everything we can to embrace every “age-defying” (or “age-denying,” if we’re honest) product and behavior that we can.
Much has changed over the decades – especially how long we live and how healthily we live longer.
For many of us, the decades between 35 and 65 are some of the most vital, sharp-minded, productive, empowered years of our lives. These three decades also comprise some very important and dynamic developmental stages in our lives, which I’ll get into in detail in future posts.
In surveys conducted over the past five years asking what the “perfect age” is, we find that the highest percentage of people report that around 50 is perfect. Why? The kids are older, health is usually excellent, and life has provided experiences that have matured into wisdom. This is smack in the middle of midlife!
So – how do we get from “invisible” to “empowered”?
For women, midlife seems to be synonymous with peri-menopause (the time leading up to the cessation of menstruation which can last several years) and menopause (the actual cessation of menstruation.)
Peri-menopause/menopause for some women is an absolutely miserable time marked by a variety of symptoms that are confusing (like night sweats), sometimes frightening (like heart palpitations), and ranging from uncomfortable to extremely painful.
Many of my clients, who are professional women in midlife, experience a profound loss of productivity, self-esteem, and confidence because of these peri-menopausal symptoms and the total lack of understanding in the workplace about what they are experiencing.
It shouldn’t be that way. Yes, peri-menopause and menopause can present real challenges, but with the right support and resources, women can be still have lives that are productive, sexy (oh yes!), and rich with joy.
One place that’s long overdue for updating is the workplace.
With 31 million older women in the U.S. workforce – and with 25% of these women reporting that their menopausal symptoms are debilitating in our current work environments – it is high time that workplaces start to pay attention and make some changes.
One of my goals is to put an end to that lack of understanding and provide support for midlife women in the workplace. To that end, I will be writing quite a bit about midlife and menopause in the workplace.
Midlife development can be transformative, and I’m not talking about the onset of wrinkles and gray hair.
Women in midlife often experience an increase in self-observation and self-reflection that result in a deepening of their relationship with themselves. This is a result of the stages of turning away from wanting and seeking external validation and approval and turning toward the self for inspiration and fulfillment.
For many women, this gives rise to exciting new interests, heightened curiosity, greater expression of creativity, and a deep sense of spiritual awakening. This is the time when so many women tell me that they are ready to take on the world!
And as W.E.B. DuBois once said, “There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise.”
I am excited to be joining the Gennev community. I will be writing about menopause in the workplace, the adult developmental stages of midlife and why it is helpful to understand them, and the emotional, psychological and spiritual aspects of midlife.
Please comment and let me know what areas of concern you have about being a midlife professional woman. What topics would you like to hear more about? I am also eager for you to share your experiences and tips you might have for others! Please tell me about it in the comments below or on Gennev’s Facebook page or join me and many women with experience to share in Gennev’s closed Facebook group, Midlife & Menopause Solutions.